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The Empire

Times reporter calls Post snow coverage 'tabloidy'

Monday, January 31, 2011

The New York Post first reported Dan Halloran's claims (nytimes.com)

The New York Times ran a story last week questioning the claims made by a City Councilman who said sanitation workers intentionally did a poor job of removing snow during the Christmas weekend blizzard.

Now, a reporter for the paper is questioning the coverage surrounding that claim.

The New York Post first reported the claims by Councilman Dan Halloran, but, according to Times metro political reporter Michael Barbaro, the Post has not been as thorough in reporting on the state of the investigation which has stalled, amid a lack of verifying evidence.

Speaking on the New York Times Close Up (a New York 1 show featuring Times reporters discussing stories of the week), Barbaro said, "This was a really tabloidy moment, in the coverage of the blizzard."

"And, you'll be holding your breath for a very long time if you wait for the New York Post, whichoriginally reported this - sort of salaciously and loudly on the front of their paper - to come back at it and say 'the person we quoted as saying there was a deliberate slowdown, you know, is withering under investigation, [there's] no evidence of it.' "

Then, referring to his colleagues, Russ Buettner and William Rashbaum's story, Barbaro added, "The reality is, it took some really enterprising reporters to fact-check a claim that rocketed around the world and everyone took to be the truth…and now it seems to be crumbling."

As Josh Benson and I discussed earlier, whether Halloran's claims are verified by investigators or not, one thing is certain: it has taken the spotlight off Mayor Bloomberg's handling of the storm.

UPDATE: Columbia Journalism Review's Ryan Chittum piles on, criticizing how easily the story got picked up, especially on cable news.

UPDATE II: Two other things worth noting: First, the Post coverage wasn't based solely on Halloran's comments. Later stories quoted local residents and even another lawmaker, Councilwoman Tish James, who said on a radio show in December, "I do believe that there were a few [workers] that in fact engaged in a slow down." Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith said he "heard it from sanitation workers that there was a concerted effort" to slow the street plowing.

Secondly, investigators have not commented publicly about this ongoing investigation, so, the official ruling hasn't come in yet.

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The Empire

How a popular governor braces for an unpopular budget

Monday, January 31, 2011

Part of Cuomo's tools have been direct appeals to lawmakers, lots of food, and, notably, a lack of demonizing the people who got the state into the fiscal mess.

My story:

Cuomo has taken a matter-of-fact tone to describe the drastic maneuvers he's about to unveil, saying it's the result of a "national economic decline, on top of a state that has been spending too much money for too long."

"Those two facts are now compounding and the chickens are coming home to roost," he said in Poughkeepsie earlier this month.

All that spending — those chickens coming home — went set in motion, year in and year out, by the legislators in Albany. But unlike his predecessors, Cuomo isn't steamrolling, scapegoating or even blaming them.

If anything, he's bludgeoning them with charm.

"The New York State legislature is, historically, the best legislature in the nation," he said in his State of the State speech. "The most talented people — those who we are. That's who we are. And that's who we can be again."

Everyone applauded.

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It's A Free Blog

When Quiet Diplomacy May Beat Grandstanding

Monday, January 31, 2011

WNYC

On Friday, Americans discovered they didn’t need a television to catch the most gripping program around – and that, in most parts of the country, TV wouldn’t help them.

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It's A Free Blog

Stucknation: Disclosure, Democracy, and the Federal Reserve

Monday, January 31, 2011

In Tunisia, Wikileaks’ disclosures of State Department cables describing the self-dealing  of former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's regime greased the skids for his exit. Sunlight may be a great antiseptic, but it is also a lubricant to move stuck history right along.

In a few days, the passion of the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution had swept across the Maghreb as far east as Egypt, touching down in Yemen and even the Sudan. The whole world watched as long-suffering people were inspired to put their life on the line to make their own history.

Nowhere has there been a greater need for Wikileaks than at the Federal Reserve. The Fed was created by an act of Congress in 1913 to regulate banking, but it has long been a captive of that industry.

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The Empire

Bloomberg: state 'must' combine school cuts with rules change

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg wants Governor Cuomo to end teacher seniority rules. (azi paybarah / wnyc)

Governor Cuomo is, reportedly, not eager to embrace Michael Bloomberg's call to change laws that require teacher layoffs be based on seniority, rather than merit, known as Last In, First Out.

It's an important rule, considering all the cuts Cuomo is expected to announce when he unveils his budget on Tuesday.

At a church this morning, Bloomberg kept pressing his case.

"I say: Enough with Albany rules. You just cannot do this. If the Governor's budget contains education cuts, it must also contain changes to the law so that we can take merit into account when making these difficult decisions," Bloomberg said, according to a transcript sent out by a spokesman.

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It's A Free Country ®

Score One For Transparency

Saturday, January 29, 2011

On December 22nd, hours before the end of the 111th congressional session, a Senator used a ‘secret hold’ to stall a piece of legislation called the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, that had previously passed both the Senate and the House, and had made its way back to the Senate for reconciliation. The bill would have strengthened protections for whistleblowers who face reprisals from their employers for exposing government malfeasance. Since the hold was placed so close to the end of the congressional session, it effectively killed the bill, which will need to be reintroduced in this new session if it is to become law.

But not all hope is lost. This past Thursday, as part of a series of reform votes meant to ease Senate gridlock, the Senate voted 92-4 to make new rules governing the secret hold, making the practice significantly harder.

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It's A Free Country ®

The Mix: From Washington To Cairo

Friday, January 28, 2011

Welcome to It's A Free Country's The Mix, where we take some of the notable clips from this week's news and mix 'em up. Remember the State of the Union address? This week felt like it was split in two - pre- and post-game for President Obama's big speech; and then all attention turned to the Middle East, where pro-democracy protests spread from Tunisia to Yemen and then, on Friday, rocked the streets of Egypt.

The Mix reflects this week's two halves, with clips from our coverage of the State of the Union followed by the reaction to the Arab protests from Hillary Clinton; Yemeni blogger Walid Al-Saqaf offering a word of caution;Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign relations talking about the implications of Egypt's protests; and write Mona Eltahawy with an optimistic view of the spread of democracy.

[beats from Sabzi and J. Cole]

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It's A Free Blog

What the Oscars Don't Tell Us About Race in America

Friday, January 28, 2011

Too often, the stories black and brown (and women) filmmakers want to tell cannot get a green light. Studios do not want to take the chance on a story that is out of what they perceive to be the mainstream. So, come Oscar time, you don’t see diversity -- in front of the camera, or behind it.

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It's A Free Country ®

The U.S. Response to the Protests in Egypt

Friday, January 28, 2011

WNYC
I’m just stunned at what is going on. The United States seems like it really has lost the plot and is behind the curve on this.

Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy

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The Empire

how much food to serve when negotiating an austere budget?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Governor Cuomo invited the public to meet him in the govenor\'s mansion on January 1, and later, lawmakers too. (azi paybarah / wnyc)


Thomas Kaplan has a good peek inside the governor's mansion, where Cuomo has relocated much of the budget talks with legislators. There, the governor is plying his audience with food and beverages as he tries getting them to support what is expected to be a painfulround of budget cuts.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver - whose support is crucial for the governor - is quoted saying after his meeting, "They served too much."

Not everyone feels the same way.

On Monday, Cuomo hosted members of the Brooklyn, Bronx and Westchester delegations. Among the attendees was Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from Brooklyn. He said the wooing he got from the governor was more modest, and in keeping with his fiscally conservative talking points.

"I think the most generous way I can describe it was 'light refreshments,' " Jeffries, of the meeting. "Clearly it was consistent with the notion that we are in austere times and the days of wine and roses are over. And it was made clear to us in advance of the meeting: Don’t cancel your dinner plans."

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It's A Free Blog

The Silence of Friends

Friday, January 28, 2011

As Americans, we have come to expect our leaders to stand up for the rights of those who want to be free—calling on other nations to foster democracy and not to squelch it. With the situation developing in Egypt, however, we need to hear more from the White House than labored fence-straddling between what is best for our national interests and the principles we profess to uphold.

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It's A Free Blog

Will Obama Keep His Word on a Government that Lives Within Its Means?

Friday, January 28, 2011

WNYC

The president offered some straight talk during his State of the Union address on the relationship between our deficit, long-term debt problems and social welfare spending. He admitted that there would have to be sacrifices to bring our deficits under control, and that only working on non-military discretionary spending barely scratches the surface of the issue.

But what do the American people want to do about this? Normally you could just look at public opinion polling, but in this case, most polls are asking the wrong questions.

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It's A Free Country ®

Protests in Yemen

Friday, January 28, 2011

All of them have one common denominator, which is injustice, social injustice. All of those regimes had privileged certain groups in society and amassed wealth through illegal means like corruption...The people needed to be the rulers, not the other way around. If Tunisia did it, why shouldn't we do it?

Walid Al-Saqaf, founder and administrator of Yemen Portal, speaking about protest in Yemen and the rest of the Arab world on The Brian Lehrer Show

Comments [8]

It's A Free Blog

Halloran's Abominable Snow Story

Friday, January 28, 2011

When New York City Council Member Dan Halloran announced that the city’s poor response to last month’s blizzard was the result of an intentional slow down by sanitation workers, we had a chance to see how right-wing media works. Based only on his unverified claims, the story appeared in The Post, then on its sibling Fox News. Other news agencies then followed Fox’s lead, and all the attention prompted three separate probes by the US Attorney, District Attorney and the City Department of Investigations.

Halloran had his 15 minutes of fame serving the anti-worker interests of the right-wing message machine, and the workers were dubbed  “Abominable Snowmen" by the ever-classy Post.

Now the story of these “Abominable Snowmen” is proving as questionable as the yeti itself.

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The Empire

to move Democrats, a Republican points to a rule set by Democrats

Friday, January 28, 2011

The leader of the State Senate, Republican Dean Skelos, is defending a move to kick several Democratic senators out of their offices...because their rents are too (damn!) high.

"The Democrats, when they were in the majority in the Senate, set certain parameters as to district offices. $40,000 here in the city. Malcolm Smith is spending $100,000...Dan Squadron is spending over $80,000. So, they're violating their own guidelines."

Skelos, speaking to reporters after an appearance at the Association for a Better New York in Manhattan this morning, said the state senate simply can't afford those kinds of rents.

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The Empire

party with Weingarten and Schumer

Friday, January 28, 2011

If you're in DC on Monday, why not hang out with the powerful union leader, Randi Weingarten, and New York's senior senator?

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The Empire

Bloomberg: state cuts could mean 15,000 fewer NYC teachers

Friday, January 28, 2011

Some notable quotes from Bloomberg's radio show this morning.

On congestion pricing: “Balancing the budget by doing something like
this is not a smart thing to do.” The mayor said the money needs to be earmarked for transit programs, in order to work.

On layoffs: “Which do we want? 10 or 15,000 fewer teachers, or continue
a bonus program?" Also, he said, "a billion dollars is 15,000 teachers," referring to the size reduced aid to city schools he's expecting from Albany.

On Trump wanting to run the new Tavern on the Green: “You don't automatically give it someone because they say to the paper I’m willing to do it.” “Donald [Trump] is a promoter and I
think he’s a very good one…I really do like him.”

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It's A Free Country ®

The Twitter Conversation On The Arab World: Mubarak Detained, Sick

Friday, January 28, 2011

UPDATE April 13: We've adjusted the widget settings to better reflect the news about Hosni Mubarak.

Protests continue to spread throughout the Arab world, and Twitter is tracking many of the developments. Below is a stream of some common search terms that we hope will help you follow the events.

The Takeaway

Three Presidents Walk Into a Bar...

Friday, January 28, 2011

The lobby of Washington, D.C.'s Mayflower Hotel has seen more than its fair share of presidents and political elite. The hotel's piano bar has become a social scene for presidents within the hotel, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Our partners at the BBC spoke with the one man who's seen it all go down, and provided the entertainment along the way — Dan Ruskin, the piano man.

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It's A Free Country ®

Teaching Religious Tolerance

Friday, January 28, 2011

In 1790, George Washington wrote a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island in which he described an American government "which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance." Adam Strom, director of content, research, and development for Facing History and Ourselves, and Farah Anwar Pandith, first ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities at the Department of State, talk about the founding fathers' commitment to religious liberty, the link between religious freedom and democracy, and how teaching religious tolerance in schools is an essential part of maintaining a free society.

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